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Category: Team

Meet PBEC Veterinarian Dr. Marilyn Connor

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Marilyn Connor
Dr. Marilyn Connor. Photo by Erin Gilmore

For some, becoming an equine veterinarian was always their calling. But, for Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s own Dr. Marilyn Connor, a diverse education and a healthy serving of life experience gave her options. Originally hailing from just north of Dallas, TX, Dr. Connor grew up around horses, but initially set her sights on going to medical school to study human medicine. Her undergraduate studies started at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, before she transferred back to her home state of Texas to graduate in 2006 with honors from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical science and minors in chemistry and business.

After conducting a Master’s level research project on the effects of social stress on an animal model of multiple sclerosis, Dr. Connor broadened her horizons and moved to New York. While in New York, Dr. Connor spent three years as a research analyst and junior stock trader at a New York-based hedge fund.  On her weekends, Dr. Connor volunteered at a therapeutic riding program in Brooklyn, NY, where she taught riding lessons to children, adults, and veterans.  It was during her time volunteering at the therapeutic riding program, that Dr. Connor realized she wanted a career where she was able to help both people and animals. Ultimately, this passion lead her back to Texas where she attended four years of veterinary school at Texas A&M University.

Here’s the rest of Dr. Connor’s story

What led you to an internship at PBEC?

In veterinary medicine, unlike human medicine, it is optional to complete an internship after graduation before going into practice. It’s estimated that by completing an equine internship, because of the high caseload and number of hours worked, you gain anywhere from three to five years of experience.  Because I was a non-traditional vet student, with a career before I started vet school, I really wanted to jumpstart my career so I could become an experienced veterinarian quickly.  I felt that completing an internship was a good investment of my time, so I could get those additional hours of mentorship and become a excellent veterinarian. I considered many of the best practices in the country, mostly in California and Colorado, when searching for an internship.  I met Dr. Swerdlin at an American Association of Equine Practitioners conference in Las Vegas two years ago and he invited me to come to Palm Beach Equine Clinic for a visit. I fell in love with the practice and the people, and felt the internship offered a good balance of autonomy to act as a doctor while still providing mentorship for a young veterinarian. One thing that’s unique about PBEC is that we have a full staff of technicians day and night so I knew, as an intern, I would be able to rest in the evenings so I could focus my time on learning and becoming a good veterinarian.  In some practices, interns are expected to act as a doctor during the day, but at night they are required to come to the hospital to feed horses, cleaning stalls, or administer simple medications which could be done by a technician. Another big motivation for me was that we have so many doctors to collaborate with. During the peak of season, there are roughly 40 doctors here to learn and gain experience from. I was also impressed with the very diverse case load that comes into PBEC. Those are some of the reasons I joined PBEC as an intern in July 2017.

Dr. Marilyn Connor speaking at a Lunch & Learn during the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival. Photo by Jump Media
Dr. Marilyn Connor speaking at a Lunch & Learn during the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival. Photo by Jump Media.

What is your experience with horses outside of being a veterinarian?

I like to say that I was riding horses since before I was born. My mom had horses and she rode while she was pregnant with me. When I was eight I got my first horse and rode western; mostly trails, pleasure, and a little bit of barrels, until I was twelve. Then I switched over to English riding and showed in both the Hunter and Jumper divisions until I was 18 and left for college. I didn’t have the means to bring a horse with me to school, so there was a period of about two years when I was only riding when I would come home.

During my sophomore year of college, I got a job at a barn exercising and training first and second-level dressage horses.  Later in college, I had a friend who did competitive endurance racing and she had some spare horses that she needed ridden in competition so I did that and it’s something that I stayed with until today. As you can see, I have just about done it all when it comes to riding.  I also have trained young horses and taught riding lessons since I was about 15 years old.  After college, I spent some time teaching at a therapeutic riding center and this was one of the things that ultimately made me realize I wanted to be an equine veterinarian so that I could help both horses and the people that love them.

What is your typical day like at PBEC?

One of the things I love about being a veterinarian, is that no two days are the same! Most days, I come into the hospital first thing in the morning to, physical examinations and treatments on my hospitalized patients that are staying at PBEC.  On some days, I manage anesthesia for the surgeries taking place at the clinic, so I must make sure the patient is physically healthy enough to handle anesthesia and undergo surgery.  I then administer a combination of medications to induce and maintain them under general anesthesia for the surgery. I monitor them throughout the procedure and stay with them until they have fully recovered after surgery and are able to stand up and walk back to their stall.  I am happy to report I will be staying on at Palm Beach Equine as an associate, so I am working on developing my client base within the clinic.  now I make farm calls to see my patients and I also seeing many of the call-in appointments for routine veterinary care as well as daytime emergencies such as when people discover their horse has an injury or is sick. I have taken continuing education courses that are specific on dentistry, so I also see patients that require dental care such as having their teeth floated.  I am also certified in veterinary chiropractic, so that’s another service that I bring to the clinic.

What’s your favorite kind of case to work on?

I like so many things about my job, but I really like helping my clients to maximize the health of their horses through nutrition, wellness care, and preventative medicine.  I also like working with lameness in horses; diagnosing orthopedic conditions and treating them with a combination of traditional joint injections, regenerative medicine, rehabilitation, and alternative medicine. It’s very rewarding to help my equine patients to be able to do their job at a high level and stay sound.  I also enjoy working with clients to understand things they can do to prevent their horse from needing those kind of interventions later on in life.

I do a lot of the veterinary care for the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center, which PBEC supports.  It is very rewarding to be able to give back to a cause that is important to me, but now in a different capacity as a veterinarian.

What do you enjoy most about working for PBEC?

One thing I enjoy about working at PBEC is that we are well-equipped with the most advanced technology and equipment rarely offered outside of a university setting.  We have an amazing hospital facility, top quality surgeons, the latest in regenerative medicine, and the most advanced diagnostic tools including radiography, MRI, nuclear scintigraphy and our new Computed Tomography (CT) machine, which very few practices have.  As a doctor, it is amazing to have every tool at my disposal, so I can provide the best quality veterinary care for my patients.  But I think my favorite thing about working at PBEC and what really makes us unique as a practice is that we have an exceptional team of doctors with different backgrounds and slightly different skill sets.  While every doctor essentially operates autonomously within the practice, it is still one big team. I have so many doctors I can call day or night if I am stumped on a case or need assurance that the treatment plan is appropriate. At PBEC we always collaborate to provide the best quality care for our patients.

Meet PBEC Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Peter Heidmann

Dr. Peter Heidmann Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian

One of the repeatedly praised and recognized characteristics of Palm Beach Equine Clinic is the great pool of talented professionals from all specialties that make up the large team. In 2016, Dr. Peter Heidmann, DVM, MPH, began working with Palm Beach Equine Clinic for the winter season, and this year, the accomplished internal medicine specialist is returning to work with Palm Beach Equine Clinic for the duration of the 2018 winter season.

Dr. Heidmann graduated from Tufts University with his veterinary degree in 2000 before beginning a one-year internship in equine medicine and surgery at Arizona Equine, followed by a one-year surgical fellowship at Oregon State University, followed by a residency for internal medicine at the University of California, Davis, which he completed from 2002 to 2005. In 2005, Dr. Heidmann joined a private equine practice in Montana, and today he is the owner and hospital director of Montana Equine. 

Q: What prompted you to pursue equine veterinary medicine?

I knew I wanted to be a vet for a long time, but I didn’t know that I wanted to practice more individually focused medicine until I was going through vet school. It wasn’t until my fourth year, where you’re actually starting to work with patients, that I made that realization. I started moving in that direction, and I had some faculty that saw the same for me and encouraged me to do the horse stuff.  I always loved working with horses, but up until that time, I thought my background was too agricultural to do high-end sport horse work.  But their encouragement helped me realize that wasn’t true.   Then, I decided as a result of that realization and thought process, that I wanted to do an internship and residency to become specialized in internal medicine.

Q: What led you to Montana, and how has your role and practice evolved from when you started there in 2015 to today where you’re now the owner and hospital director of Montana Equine?

When I finished my residency at Davis in 2005, I wanted to be in the west. I wanted to be somewhere where there was nobody with my skill set – meaning internal medicine. I wanted to be in a small mountain town basically. Somewhere that I could practice the kind of medicine that I was trained to do but not in big metropolis. So, I narrowed it down to a practice in New Mexico and a practice in Montana. I went to work for a practice in Bozeman, MT, in July of 2005 and six months later my predecessor, Dr. Dave Catlin, passed away in a car crash. It was really sad. He had three kids, left a widow, and it was his dream to start an equine only specialty vet hospital, which he had done in 1999.

When he died, the conventional wisdom around Bozeman was, ‘Well this can’t be done. Dave had a dream, and it’s not a realizable dream now. There aren’t enough people here. Montana residents won’t understand specialized medicine and they won’t pay for it.’ I was faced with this proposition of leaving the practice after just arriving there, but I knew that was where I really wanted to be. I basically picked up the pieces of Dr. Catlin’s practice and formed Montana Equine in February of 2006.

Now we have a 7,500 square foot hospital with a surgery site at Bozeman, and I have a partner there, an associate, and two interns. We have two satellite locations: an ambulatory-only satellite in Helena, MT, and have nearly completed satellite clinic building in Billings, MT, which is the largest community in Montana.

Dr. Peter Heidmann, DVM, MPH Palm Beach Equine Clinic
Dr. Heidmann participated as one of the founding veterinarians in Montana State University’s bioregions program to Mongolia in 2014.

Q: You began working with Palm Beach Equine Clinic during the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) season, but you’re out in Montana and have your own practice there. How did that relationship come about, and what does it look like today?

There are various aspects to that. We’re very quiet in Montana from basically Thanksgiving through March, and it’s not really my personality to sit around. That’s one aspect, and another is from a business perspective, it allows me to bring more vets on and keep them year-round. A third element is the desire to do more high-end medicine, and a fourth element that led me to Wellington, is my wife, Allison, who is a professional jumper rider. Two years ago, during the winter of 2015, Allison had a girlfriend who had just had a baby and asked Allison to run her business for her here at WEF. I thought that was an interesting idea and started talking to Palm Beach Equine Clinic and found that there might be a need for an internal medicine specialist in their group. So that’s when I started coming. At that point, I was in Wellington for four or five days and then home for ten days, back and forth and back and forth. Then last year, I was more of a week here and a week at home. We had our first child, so Allison and Oliver, who was brand new then, were here straight through, but I went back home to Montana as well. The need is there and the relationship is great. So, this year, I’m in Wellington full-time for the WEF.

Q: What do you enjoy most about having the opportunity to practice with Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

It’s a huge group of people, so there are a lot of personalities. When you have a lot of different personalities, you have a lot of different perspectives on treatments, and that’s interesting and fun. It means that every year when I’m here, it’s pretty dynamic. Back in Bozeman, I have a great team, but I’m the leader of the team. I’m the oldest and the most experienced. That’s good, and that’s not to say that those guys don’t definitely come with new ideas, but being here, there are so many ways of doing things that I end up picking up new tricks or new ideas even though I’ve been practicing for most of two decades. So here at Palm Beach Equine Clinic, I’m picking up new strategies and new techniques separate from new stuff coming out in the world – just different ways of doing things, and different experienced veterinarians to bounce ideas off of. That’s really refreshing and stimulating.

From a vet’s perspective, with the Wellington demographic there is sometimes less of a limitation on budget and expense, so we’re really able to set that factor and worry aside and instead focus solely on what is best for the patient. The limitation isn’t financial; the limitation is just medicine and what we are able to do, which is exciting and allows us to see great results.

Q: Have you had any favorite cases or standout moments during your time with Palm Beach Equine Clinic thus far?

I won’t name any in particular, but what I really enjoy are the challenging medical cases, the internal medicine cases that tend to be really sick and that you’re able to fix. The most common ones that we see are probably sickness after colic surgery, horses with really bad diarrhea, so colitis cases, followed by foals. Those cases generally all have a lot of things going on in a lot of different organ systems. So, there are a lot of factors to balance. Internal medicine people like me are kind of inherently nerdy, and we really get into what’s happening with the acid-base status, electrolytes, blood gases, fluid volumes, and other technical aspects of horse medicine.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

While in South Florida, we’re basically working all the time, so not as much here except trying to get exercise and be fit. I like to ride a bike or go for a run. At home, the Gallatin Valley – which is where Bozeman is – is surrounded all around by mountains. The valley floor at Bozeman is at about 5,000 feet, and the peaks are at 8,500, so you can do a lot of really serious hiking. Our son is only 18 months old, but he loves it. I’ve had dogs in the past where their whole personality changes when you get out of town, and that’s what Oliver is like too. It’s almost like his whole face is a different face when he’s out there.

Meet PBEC Veterinarian Dr. Natalia Novoa

Dr. Natalia Navoa
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Natalia Navoa

Dr. Natalia Novoa was born in Nashville, TN, and raised in Colombia, where she graduated from the University of La SalleUpon returning to the United States, Novoa validated her degree in both the U.S. and Canada and received her chiropractic adjustments qualifications in Kansas and studied acupuncture in Florida. Novoa joined the Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) team for a short period in 2000, before spending several years following the hunter/jumper horse show circuit in Canada, Colorado, and Ocala, FL. She then re-joined the PBEC staff in 2011, and, with her veterinary license in Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Canada, Novoa has been a valued member of their team ever since.

Q: How did you decide that you wanted to pursue veterinary medicine?

I have enjoyed having animals in my life since I was very young, but what was key to me deciding to pursue veterinary medicine was having a farm where I was able to gain skills and real-world experience that would prove handy down the road. I was able to practice with real medical cases and acquire knowledge in operational management, and it was an introduction to the lifestyle because it requires patience, hard work, commitment, determination, and accountability. It was a valuable opportunity to work hands-on in the environment with the veterinarian of my farm, absorbing, assimilating, and getting familiarized with the vet skills that were the building blocks for my future. He made me realize that veterinary medicine would fit me perfectly. That helped me set the foundation for my career, and since then, I didn’t have to look any further!

Q: What led you to PBEC?

I think of it like this: if I want to become the best at what I do then I have to work with the best, and I picked PBEC. They say, “Leadership is not about a title or designation. It’s about impact, influences, and inspiration.” Palm Beach Equine assumes the leadership role, chases the latest trends, and evolves continuously. In addition, we have a great team of skilled vets and staff who try to expand their vision and abilities to achieve success. 

I have to say I have had seven great horse show seasons with Palm Beach Equine, and I’m looking forward to an eighth one. When you are doing what you love and you are working with great horses, time flies.

Q: What is your primary area of focus?

I focus on sports medicine and lameness, combining conventional medicine with alternative medicine; this includes chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, and herbal therapy. To me those are great alternative tools for diagnosis and treatment. I have to say, they help you to look at a horse or a dog in a different way, and you have more tools and options. Regardless of the case – lameness, pain management, internal medicine, etc. – I have different choices to achieve results in those situations.

I perform chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture therapy, and laser treatments to small animals as well. Most horse people have dogs, so I’m able to take care of their companions too.

Q: What is a typical day like for you at PBEC?

It’s a busy agenda every day with continuous juggling. I’m usually dealing with lameness (involving diagnosis and treatment), doing pre-purchase exams, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture therapies on horses and dogs, performing laser treatments, and at the end of the day, doing paperwork. Depending on the day, I could be doing FEI treatments, vet shift at the horse show, donating vet work at Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center, or dealing with an emergency. We’re a very mobile practice able to go from farm to farm and horse show to horse show (Kentucky; Tryon, NC; Ocala, FL), so I’m moving around a lot.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

There are so many aspects that I enjoy: working outdoors, closely with animals on a daily basis, and diagnosing and dealing with different issues to overcome problems; the privilege of working as a team with the clients and trainers and creating a great, close relationship with them; the connection with the animals and how they show you how grateful they are, and being able to see the improved outcome. There’s great satisfaction in successfully applying my knowledge and skills to a make a difference in someone’s life.

Palm-Beach-Equine-Clinic-Acupuncture-Alternative-Medicine-Therapy-Natalia-Novoa-1

Q: Have you had any standout, favorite moments since beginning to work at PBEC?

When I had double success treating a ‘mystery’ case of a horse in which the owner was losing hope because other treatments were not showing good outcomes, and also treating her dog that was crying and unable to get in the car. The animals and owners were both happy and thankful. “For it is in giving that we receive” – having a positive impact on someone is correlated with high levels of overall job satisfaction.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I enjoy traveling with my daughter, Lola, and visiting my parents and siblings that live in different countries. I also love dancing to Latin music, running, playing tennis and squash. I’m a pretty competitive squash player, so I welcome any challengers!

Meet Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian
Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler is one of the newest additions to Palm Beach Equine Clinic, having joined the team in June of 2017. Originally hailing from New Jersey, Hustler completed her undergraduate degree in Equine Science at Centenary College while simultaneously riding as a member of their Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) team. Hustler then graduated from the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2016.

What is your background with horses?

Both of my parents are ministers, so I come from a non-horse family, but I begged my mom for riding lessons as a kid. From there, I got involved in the showjumping community in the Ocean Grove, NJ, area where I was growing up. I stayed in the showjumping world up until I became a veterinarian. I worked as a rider and an FEI groom for various professionals, including about seven years with Gabriella Salick, a showjumper from the West Coast. With Gabby, I had the opportunity to take care of her horses at World Cup Finals, the Olympic trials, Spruce Meadows, and top horse shows all over the country. She really taught me how to be a good horseman too, which I think has been really invaluable to me now as a veterinarian.

How did you then decide to pursue veterinary medicine?

I’ve always been quite interested in science, as well as the horse. I’ve always loved animals, and I wanted to be able to help horses, as well as the professionals and owners, involved in the industry. You do that as a groom and rider to some extent, but it’s different being a veterinarian. I’ve always felt like it was my mission in life to help horses and the people involved with them, especially in this capacity.

What led you to Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

I knew Dr. Richard Wheeler and Dr. Bryan Dubynsky and knew of Palm Beach Equine from my involvement in showjumping, so when it came time to do an externship when I was in vet school, I did it at Palm Beach Equine. Then, while I was extern-ing, I applied for the clinic’s internship position, and I got the internship position. Then, during my internship, they offered me an associate position. I got the externship, and I was able to make my way up from there. During the externship, I remember thinking, ‘I really want to intern here,’ and then when I was interning, I was thinking ‘I don’t really want to leave.’ I love the practice. I like the demographics of the horses that we get to work on, the people that are involved, and the sense of community. You’re surrounded by colleagues that you can work with; you can always ‘phone a friend.’ It’s a really inviting and helpful atmosphere to learn and work in.

What is your favorite part of the job?

I mentioned the demographics of the horses that we’re working on – the caliber of them is really just incredible, and getting to work on the horses that we do is such a privilege. Outside of that, I focus a lot on lameness, alternative therapies, internal medicine, and I’m acupuncture certified, which I really enjoy. I’m a big advocate of acupuncture as a non-invasive way for the horse’s body to heal itself, as well as a nice addition to other kinds of treatments to promote overall well-being and health.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy?

I’m married to a great guy named Samuel, and we spend a lot of time outdoors and with our three dogs. We’re big beach people, and we love the ocean, paddle-boarding, yoga, hiking, biking – just getting out and enjoying being outside.

Meet Surgical Resident Dr. Michael Myhre

Dr. Michael Myhre Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Surgeon

Dr. Michael Myhre was born to be a veterinarian. In 1978 his father, Dr. Grant Myhre, developed a referral practice, Myhre Equine Clinic in Rochester, NH. After working alongside his father since middle school, Dr. Myhre, who hails from Milton, NH, believes he was always destined to be a veterinarian. Dr. Myhre graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine based in Ithaca, NY, in 2016, and he joined Palm Beach Equine Clinic thereafter as a surgical resident to work under the direction of board-certifed surgeons Dr. Robert Brusie, Dr. Jorge Gomez, and Dr. Weston Davis.

What is your background with horses?

I grew up in my father’s practice. He would bring me along to see outpatients and cut colics at 2 a.m. When I was in high school and college, I would work there during the summers as a technician. I kept learning from him and when it was time to decide what I would do, I applied to vet school.

We had some lesson horses at home and taught some therapeutic riding, so I rode on the trails occasionally, but I knew I was always supposed to be a veterinarian.

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

I attended Ithaca College in New York and studied computer science. It is a pretty unusual undergraduate degree for a veterinarian, but I did not want to go the traditional route of getting a biology degree. Computer technology is now involved in a lot of veterinary medicine – so much of what we do is going through computers, so it is an asset to have that degree.

Dr. Michael Myhre Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Surgeon

I still took all the biology and chemistry classes at the same time, and I finished in three years. At that point, I applied to Cornell University and was accepted.

What led you to Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

I came here because it is the best residency program in the country. I have a big caseload and get to work on the best horses in the world. I started on July 1 and what I like the most is the diversity in cases. We have seen hunters, jumpers, dressage horses, and racehorses. I have done everything from condylar fracture repairs to MRIs, nuclear scintigraphy, x-rays, and even colic surgery on a miniature horse. Palm Beach Equine Clinic stays at the forefront of technology with a new standing surgery pit, standing MRI machine, and paperless medical records.

What goals do you have for your veterinary career?

After my three-year residency at Palm Beach Equine Clinic, I plan to move back to New Hampshire and work at my father’s practice.

Michael Myhre surgery palm beach equine clinic standing

What can we find you doing when you’re not working?

I am pretty much always working, but my girlfriend is a neurology resident in Manhattan, so I try to visit her as much as I can, or I take advantage of living in Florida and go swimming.

Name one thing most people wouldn’t know about you? 

I rowed for the Ithaca College crew team and while I was in vet school, I was an assistant coach for the Cornell University team.

Meet Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood

This month, Palm Beach Equine Clinic welcomed a new face to their team. Dr. Katie Atwood, hails from Jacksonville, FL, and attended veterinary school at the University of Florida, making her return to south Florida from Lexington, KY, a special homecoming.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood

What brought you to Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

I grew up in Florida, so I wanted to be closer to family and the ocean! But, I was also looking for an opportunity to grow and become a better veterinarian. This is a difficult industry to get into, but it is especially difficult to find the right practices. This is a chance for me to work with some of the best doctors in the country.

What would you say is your specialty at Palm Beach Equine Clinic? 

In addition to general, preventative and sport medicine, I will be focusing on Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s reproductive work. I did an internship and a fellowship in reproduction and realized that it is what I am most interested in. I will be working on breeding mares, performing frozen and fresh semen inseminations, as well as breeding management and embryo flushes for transfers to recipient mares.

What inspired you to be a veterinarian?

When I was a little kid we had a trail behind our house that was really popular and I would sit on the back wall and watch everybody ride by on their horses. We do not have any other veterinarians in my family, but when I was five years old I realized that I wanted to work with animals. During my undergraduate studies in Animal Science at Berry College in Rome, GA, a professor named Dr. Martin Goldberg really pushed me to pursue veterinary school.

I wake up every morning so excited to go to work and if I don’t come home exhausted and filthy then I have done something wrong. It is an “every minute of every day” commitment, but very rewarding.

When you aren’t working, where can we find you?

I like to spend as much time as possible in the water. I can usually be found swimming, diving or paddleboarding at the beach and spending time by the pool

What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing veterinary school?

Do it! It will be the most difficult time of your life, but if you have a passion for it, it will be so rewarding. Dedication is so important; take advantage of every wet lab you can, go to any conference that is available, and take advantage of opportunities to meet new people and gain mentors. Who wouldn’t want to do what they love for a living?

Name one thing most people wouldn’t know about you? 

I am a pretty open book at this point. But, when I retire, my fiancé Mackenzie and I want to sail around the world!

Meet PBEC Nuclear Scintigraphy Department Manager Brittany Cain

Originally hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Brittany Cain attended Southern Illinois University before moving to Florida and joining the staff of Palm Beach Equine Clinic as the manager of the Nuclear Scintigraphy department.

What is your background with horses?

Growing up, my parents actually had nothing to do with horses; we’re from the city of Chicago, so they were not horse people at all. I was just always the horse obsessed little girl – you know, the one horse girl in the class! When I was about 13, I started volunteering at a therapeutic riding center, so I got a lot of hands on experience there. I learned to ride a little bit and worked with the special needs kids. That was great.

When I was 18 years old and had my first paying job, I was able to afford actual riding lessons and it just went from there!

I did a lot of work on Standardbred breeding farms up in Illinois. I foaled out a lot of babies and trained a lot of weanlings. Many of those yearlings went on to be race horses. I did that for three years during college, and that was a really neat experience.

What led you to pursue a career as veterinary technician?

Throughout high school, I was always obsessed with horses. I volunteered all of my free time to be at the barn. I knew I wanted to do something that I loved, so I found Southern Illinois University, and they had a bachelor’s degree in equine science. I applied to one school, got in, and it was perfect. I didn’t have to find a bunch of schools; I just went to the one that I wanted right away, and I knew what I wanted to do!

What led to your focus on the Nuclear Scintigraphy Department in particular?

I’ve always had a strong interest in the anatomy of horses. I knew a lot of equine anatomy from college where I took many courses that covered the musculature anatomy as well as skeletal. In addition, working with all of the Standardbred yearlings was great experience for working with the two and three-year-old racehorse patients that see here at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

nuclear scintigraphy bone scan palm beach equine clinic diagnostic medical imaging services

What is your typical day like at Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

As the manager of the Nuclear Scintigraphy Department, I have the patients in the scanning area for bone scans. Myself and technicians will bring the horse into the area, I will take their temperature, pulse, and respiration checks, and then I will place a catheter and inject the radioactive isotopes.

It takes two hours for the isotope to settle into the bones, and then I can begin the bone scan. I usually inject the isotope, and then I do a lot of paperwork in between the two hours since there’s a lot of tracking and recording for dealing with radioactive materials. Then the scan begins. The horse comes into the room; they’re lightly sedated. The scans usually take from one to two hours or, for a full body scan, anywhere from two to four hours. It’s a lot of keeping the horse comfortable, getting all of the images that are needed, and making sure that the images are high quality. Usually during the busy winter season, we have anywhere from two to three horses a day so it keeps me very busy.

What do you enjoy most about working at Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

I love the variety of patients that we see. We get cases of racehorses, polo ponies, barrel racers, top show jumpers, hunters and dressage. It’s really neat seeing all of these talented and often very expensive horses.

Have you had any standout or favorite moments since you joined the Palm Beach Equine Clinic team in 2015?

We went down to Miami for the Longines Global Champions Tour to assist in taking the arriving horses off the airplanes. I helped by taking temperatures, pulse, and respiration checks on all of the competition horses. It was really cool seeing the caravan from the airport to the show grounds and just how it’s set up on Miami Beach.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

My fiancé and I go fishing a lot usually at the beach or off a pier; we definitely enjoy spending our free time fishing.

Meet Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinary Technician Cassidy Hoff

Cassidy Hoff is a veterinary technician and assistant to Dr. Richard Wheeler of Palm Beach Equine Clinic. Originally from Middletown, CT, Cassidy joined the team at Palm Beach Equine Clinic in April of 2015.

Cassidy Hoff Veterinary Technician Palm Beach Equine Clinic

What is your background with horses?

I’ve always had a passion for horses and I started riding lessons when I was seven years old. I attended Centenary College (now a University) in Hackettstown, NJ, and rode competitively as a student. I graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Equine Studies with concentrations in Riding Instruction and Therapeutic Riding Instruction, receiving an additional PATH certification (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International).

How did you start at Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

I moved to Florida after graduating from college in 2012 and landed my first job as the head instructor of a therapeutic riding center. I worked there for about three years. Through that experience, I realized that I had a strong interest in the veterinary side of the equine industry. Dr. Greenfield was the center’s primary veterinarian, which is how I learned about Palm Beach Equine Clinic. I applied for a job at Palm Beach Equine Clinic and the timing was perfect to work for Dr. Wheeler.

What is your typical day like?

Cassidy Hoff Veterinary Technician Palm Beach Equine Clinic
PBEC Veterinary Technician Cassidy Hoff with rider Kaylee Griffin, daughter of fellow PBEC team member Ashlee Griffin.

We usually work six days a week, but during the busy winter season, seven days a week is more likely. Typically, my day begins around 8 a.m. and continues until we are finished with our client appointments.  At the end of our day, I send out reports to clients we worked with throughout that day which contain discharge instructions for the findings from each appointment.

Dr. Wheeler mainly focuses on sport horse medicine. I assist him with lameness evaluations, joint injections, ultrasound exams, nerve blocks, and taking radiograph images. I am also responsible for keeping the truck well stocked and organized, replacing medications we use throughout the day and administrative work. Additionally, we complete many pre-purchase exams and I am responsible for putting together the findings for the final exam documents.

What do you like most about your job?

I love the teamwork aspect. A lot of the horses we treat compete in the WEF Saturday Night Lights or in the AGDF Friday Night Stars classes. Being able to watch these top competitions is even more exciting when you know the horse and their whole team! I feel lucky to be working with Palm Beach Equine Clinic and these horses at the top levels of their sport, and even more fortunate that the clients are amazing to work with. It takes a village to get a horse to the top levels and it is really exciting to be a part of that.

What do you do when you are not working?

I still try to find time to ride, which will always be a passion of mine. It is a little bit easier during the off-season summer months. I also enjoy going to the beach, hanging out with friends and reading.

Get to Know Dr. Sarah Allendorf

Sarah Allendorf Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Dr. Sarah Allendorf grew up in London, Ontario, Canada, and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Guelph in Ontario. She earned her Master’s degree in Experimental Surgery from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and then earned her veterinary degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. After completing an internship at Fairfield Equine & Associates in Newtown, Connecticut, Dr. Allendorf joined the team at Palm Beach Equine Clinic in September 2015.

What is your background with horses?

As a child, I was not the most athletically gifted; I could not throw or catch a ball to save my life. In an attempt to combine my interest in animals with an after school activity, my father suggested trying horseback riding lessons. Over the course of the next decade, I went from riding Western Pleasure to showing in the Hunter/Jumper discipline. I competed until I was about 16 when my education began to take priority, though I still ride for my own personal enjoyment.

When and why did you decide to become a veterinarian?

I wanted to become a veterinarian since I was approximately three years old. Once it was explained to me that there were individuals in charge of the health and welfare of animals, I never wanted to do anything else. My journey began by attending the University of Guelph and obtaining an Honours Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences. I went on to earn a Master’s degree in Experimental Surgery with a specific focus in Orthopaedics from McGill University. Upon completion of my MSc, I was granted the opportunity to study veterinary medicine at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Several of the veterinarians at Palm Beach Equine Clinic have studied in the UK. What was that experience like for you?

I really enjoyed living in Scotland – it is such a beautiful country! The University of Edinburgh’s veterinary program is very practically based, and we received a lot of hands-on experience doing animal husbandry training, in addition to the medical aspects. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks working on a dairy farm and three weeks lambing in the English countryside. Apart from the world-class education, another of the biggest perks of living in the UK is the amazing travel opportunities, including two weeks working in South Africa with a wildlife veterinarian.

Was there anyone influential in your career?

I have worked with a lot of amazing people throughout my training and career, not just veterinarians, but technicians, hospital staff, and owners. It is difficult to say which one person influenced me the most. What I attempt to do in all interactions is observe how each professional approaches a situation, the strategies they use, and the different techniques individuals employ. This has given me an arsenal of knowledge that helps me to adapt to each patient and each situation.

Do you have a specialty?

My main focus is Sport Horse medicine including lameness exams, performance evaluations, and diagnostics. I am available for general health work ups, preventative care, and emergencies – basically whatever my clients need at any given time, day or night. Additionally, I am currently getting certified in Acupuncture at the Chi Institute of Chinese Herbal Medicine in Ocala.

What do you like most about working at PBEC?

Palm Beach Equine Clinic has a fantastic team. There are many veterinarians and specialists on-site, which provides a unique opportunity for collaboration and continual professional growth. It is also incredible to work in Wellington during the season here; in the equine world, it is the place to be in the winter.

Are there any unique experiences that you have had working at PBEC?

I had the unique experience to travel on a private plane to Puerto Rico for the day to perform a pre-purchase examination with my boss, Dr. Jorge Gomez. Not only was that an educational experience, but it was a lot of fun. Not that many jobs allow for international day trips. During the summer season, I am on the road moving between Kentucky, North Carolina, and New York. As a permitted FEI treating veterinarian, I was available to clients at the Tryon International Equestrian Center and the Kentucky Horse Park as well as the Hampton Classic, HITS Saugerties, the American Gold Cup, and the Rolex Central Park Horse Show. In the future, I would like work towards becoming an Official FEI Delegate.

What are some of your other interests?

Watching Grand Prixs, under the lights of course. Not only do I go to competitions to support the athletes, both human and equine, but I go because I admire the sport. Being an equine veterinarian is not a 9-5 job. You have to love what you do, because then it’s never considered work.

Learn About Palm Beach Equine Clinic Surgeon Dr. Robert Brusie

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Robert Bob Brusie

Palm Beach Equine Clinic of Wellington, FL, has a team of over 30 skilled veterinarians, including three Board-Certified Surgeons, one of the world’s only Board-Certified equine Radiologists, and numerous other experts in their fields. Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s surgical team leader, Dr. Robert Brusie, is a nationally renowned Board-Certified surgeon whose surgical specialties include orthopedic, arthroscopic, and emergency cases. Dr. Brusie has been the head surgeon with Palm Beach Equine Clinic for the past 20 years and is a beloved part of the team.

Dr. Brusie graduated from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He completed his surgical residency at the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Center in 1989 and has been in private practice ever since. He became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1994. Dr. Brusie joined Palm Beach Equine Clinic in 1996.

Dr. Brusie is a Board-Certified Surgeon who is recognized for his expertise in colic surgery, as well as for his skill in arthroscopic surgery. His surgical experience expands the clinic’s progressive care in both emergency and elective procedures. He has published articles on numerous topics, including the equine intestinal tract and septic arthritis in horses. Dr. Brusie is married and has three daughters.

What was your background with horses growing up?

I grew up on a farm in Michigan. We had usually between 200-600 head of cattle and always between four to six horses. Our horses were cow ponies or driving horses. My dad loved horses and had to have them around. My family has owned our farm for six generations – it pretty much occupied all of our time besides sports and school. Needless to say, we didn’t have much time to show horses.

When and why did you decide to become a veterinarian? Did you know you wanted to be a surgeon from the start?

I decided to become a veterinarian at an early age. I think I was seven or eight years old when I pulled my first calf. One of my dad’s hired men called me ‘doc’ when I was about that age. When I went to college, my plan was to become a large animal veterinarian and live in my hometown and continue to farm part-time with my three brothers. All of that changed when I was in Veterinary school at Michigan State University. Dr. Ed Scott was one of the five surgeons at MSU. He was a gifted surgeon and a great teacher. He kind of steered me into an equine internship at Auburn University. It was one of those things that the more you did, the more you wanted to do to improve yourself. I operated my first colic by myself when I was three weeks out of vet school (32 years ago).

How did you first start working at Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

Dr. Robert Brusie head of surgery palm beach equine clinic

I was a surgeon at a clinic in Atlanta. In 1996 I had performed surgery for a client of Dr. Paul Wollenman’s. He had started this practice in 1975. He asked me if I needed a job. I was planning on staying in Atlanta for the rest of my career. I received phone calls from the other two partners over the next nine months, and eventually with encouragement from my fiancé, now wife Melissa, I took the job.

What do you love most about working at Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

We have an exceptional group of veterinarians and staff here. The depth and scope of our veterinarians is amazing due to the large caseload. On any individual case, there may be two to three doctors that have input on the case to ensure no stone is left unturned.

Additionally, we are so privileged to work on some of the best show, race, and polo horses in the world. It is truly an honor.

What sets the surgical services at Palm Beach Equine Clinic apart?

Between Drs. Gomez, Davis, and myself, we perform just about every soft tissue and orthopedic surgeries that are done in our field.

Personally, my greatest sense of success is when I see a horse back after surgery going as good or better than it was prior to surgery.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in sport horse medicine over the years?

Currently, the most exciting thing we see going on in medicine is regenerative therapy. Twelve to 15 years ago, we were harvesting bone marrow from the sternum and injecting it into lesions in tendons and ligaments. Now we manipulate the bone marrow or other sources of stem cells to promote more rapid and more functional healing of some of these injuries. I can assure you that in 10-20 years what we are doing now will seem stone-aged by then. There are some very clever minds performing some serious research in this field.

How do you stay up-to-date on new medical advances?

Every veterinarian at Palm Beach Equine Clinic tries to attend as many meetings as time allows. We also do a weekly journal club at our clinic to discuss recently published papers in veterinary and human medicine and surgery.

What is the most interesting or challenging surgery that you have done?

Dr. Gomez and I had a three-year-old racehorse that had split his P1 (long pastern bone) and cannon bone in the same leg in a race. We were able to piece together both bones perfectly and the horse recovered brilliantly. He probably could have returned to racing, however, the owners elected to retire him to life as a breeding sire.

Drs Brusie and Gomez

How do you spend your free time when you are not working?

When I’m not doing something with my family, I really enjoy woodworking. My current project is building a kitchen table for Sarah, my assistant of 12 years. In the summer, I get roped into helping on my brother’s farm.

What is something interesting that people may not know about you?

I have three daughters who I am very proud of and tend to brag on maybe a little too much. My oldest, who was a nationally ranked swimmer, is now an anesthesiologist in human medicine. My middle one is either number four or five (depending on the week) in the nation in debate, and my youngest will probably run the free world (you will have to ask her if she wants to).

How else is the family involved in horses?

My wife (Melissa) and youngest daughter (Kayla) are horse nuts in the true sense of the word. Anything to do with horses (especially show hunters) they are dialed in. Melissa loves riding, and Kayla shows in hunters and equitation.

What makes Palm Beach Equine Clinic a special place for you?

I am blessed to have three good men as business partners. They are my good friends and great people. We are very lucky to have 20-plus veterinarians working with us who are very knowledgeable and caring individuals. We feel like a little practice, but with a lot of people who just get the job done.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic provides experience, knowledge, availability, and the very best care for its clients. Make Palm Beach Equine Clinic a part of your team!

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